Social impact of junior version of ‘SUPER SINGER’, which is now in its fourth season, has come as a surprise to its makers

In 2006, the highly lucrative and competitive Tamil television scene began changing rapidly with the advent of reality television.

Thanks to Pradeep Milroy Peter, programming head of Vijay TV, and his team, who conceptualised the idea of identifying a ‘super singer’ from Tamil Nadu, it is arguably the only reality TV show that has had a meaningful impact in the segment.

“We improvised on a talent hunt we did in 2005 where we managed to find the now-popular singer Saindhavi to share the stage with singers Unni Krishnan, Anuradha Sriram and Srinivas. That was an eye-opener for us,” he says.

The concept evolved into a full-fledged talent hunt show that would provide a platform for talented singers from across Tamil Nadu to compete with each other.

“We were very clear — it was not going to be about just identifying talent, we wanted them to become playback singers,” he says. The instant success of the show spawned two versions — one for young singers and the other for older ones — each having its own impact in society.

While ‘Super Singer Senior’ has made stars out of talents from across the world, including the 63-year-old R. Azhagesan, the junior talent hunt has given children an opportunity to dream big.

But the real surprise, says Pradeep, has been the social impact of the show’s junior version, which is now in its fourth season. “The USP of the juniors’ show is the ‘wow’ factor. For viewers, it is about watching young kids perform in front of millions. For the kids and their parents, it is about gaining the necessary confidence to face a competition,” he says.

The trend that points to the show’s extraordinary success is the way schools and parents have accommodated the ambitions of the children. “It has reached a stage where kids train to be on the show and some schools are beginning to offer scholarships. What is important is how over a period of about eight months, kids from different backgrounds gain the confidence to face the world,” says Pradeep.

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The Masterchef series is easily one of those TV shows that cut across cultural barriers. ‘Masterchef Australia’ especially is hugely popular among couch potatoes here, and it seems, the increasingly Indian referencing is not merely coincidental.

The sixth season of the series, currently being aired on Star World Premiere, close to its international broadcast, served up a surprise last week by getting Masterchef India host and Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna to set up a pressure test challenge for the contestants.

His ‘tea-smoked chicken tikka masala’ challenge was interesting to watch though many an Indian homemaker would have been amused to see foreigners struggling to make the ‘poppadam,’ a staple at every meal here.

The show certainly keeps everyone glued and it has an emotional appeal to it, achieved by showing the contestants in their most humane moments. The hosts, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston, are probably the most loved TV show judges there can be.

In stark contrast though is the U.S. version of ‘Masterchef’, where the tone of the show is more aggressive and rude, with the contestants and the judges — especially Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich — never mincing their words.

There was a cheeky comment doing the rounds on Twitter: ‘ideal world is like Masterchef Australia, whereas the real world is more like Masterchef US’.

(Reporting by Udhav Naig and Karthik Subramanian)

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